Tuesday, May 17, 2011

No Angel - The Ecclestone biography

Tom Bower has written a biography of Bernie Ecclestone which aspires to the omniscience of a Victorian novel, but descends to the dialogue of a Guy Ritchie screenplay:

"Where are they?" asked Dennis as he sought to collect his expensive trophies...Pointing his shotgun at Scheckter's own Mercedes, he threatened, "I'll blast a hole if you don't give them back." (p305).

"Bastard," Slavica unexpectedly shouted at her husband...Ecclestone urged his wife to calm down. Without provocation, she replied, "Motherfucker." (p285).

'Oh fuck, that's ruined the summer,' thought Mosley [on learning that confidential information had been passed from a Ferrari employee to a McLaren employee]. (p310).

"Fuck, fuck, fuck," said Ecclestone, [on learning of Max Mosley's tabloid expose]. (p322).

To some degree, one can understand why Bower has invented this semi-fictional dialogue, for the details of Formula One's repetitive financial disagreements do not otherwise make for a sparkling read. The result, arguably, is an entertaining, if occasionally ludicrous book.

However, perhaps more seriously, the expository material in Bower's work is also riven with numerous egregious inaccuracies. As Tony Dodgins points out, whilst one would not expect Bower to be an expert on Formula One, one would expect him to get someone who is, to scrutinise the manuscript and correct any errors prior to publication. Once again, authors and publishers need to understand that a book containing typographical or factual errors, is a defective product, just like a DVD with a scratch across the surface, or a mobile phone with bug-ridden software.

Bower reputedly earnt his spurs as an investigative journalist with the BBC's flagship current affairs programme, Panorama. There are lines in this book, however, which suggest that his natural metier would rather have been the editorial team of John Craven's Newsround:

"Do you know that I'm Jewish?" Todt asked Mosley. "Of course," replied Mosley, removing any suspicion of being anti-Semitic. (p352).

In Dennis's opinion, the argument showed how Ecclestone was 'crossing to the dark side', a reference to the film 'Star Wars'. (p221).

The latter, informative and perspicacious explanation of Ron Dennis's otherwise impossibly cryptic comment, surely leaves the reader gasping for the entire 'Tom Bower Guide to Popular Colloquialisms of Cinematic Provenance'. One imagines the following might be included:

"Play it again Sam," she said, a reference to the film 'Casablanca'.

Or how about:

"Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn," he said, a reference to the film 'Gone with the Wind'.

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